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Social Criticism

During Paleolithic times, before the organization of society had begun to specialize, the condition of the tribe and the individual were interpreted and healed in ceremonies that involved music, dance, song, costume, mask, fire, and play-acting.

As the roles of individuals became more differentiated during the Neolithic Age and following, the integrated spiritual activities of the tribe changed as well, essentially dividing religion and the arts. Today, most churches decidedly avoid using the arts to explore spiritual truths. Perhaps this is because the arts encourage individual interpretation while religion sustains its power through dogma.

When religion becomes "the bureaucratization of the spirit" (as it is today), it is then through theatre by which we seek our salvation. To quote the early 20th Century American playwright Maxwell Anderson's paraphrasing of Aristotle, "The theatre is a religious institution dedicated entirely to the spiritual exaltation of mankind."

In addition to its ability to entertain and offer psychological and spiritual insight and integration to its participants, the theatre has always offered a means of social criticism. This function of drama is understandably irreplaceable in societies where censorship is formally established, but it is just as necessary in societies where censorship is less visible yet equally insidious.

While the advanced industrial nations of the West may espouse themselves as democratic societies possessed of free markets, an examination of events does not support such contentions. Truly, the machinations of capital dominate all aspects of modern life: legislation is a direct result of campaign contributions; churches justify large concentrations of private wealth; and the arts are dropped from public educational curriculums because they are not deemed cost-effective.

In light of the worship of money ("the almighty dollar") as the state religion (please note that one of the definitions of fascism is the corporate state), it behooves the theatre to vigilantly criticize accepted norms. We expect you'll find the theatre criticism contained on this site consistent with this perspective.

Bob Bows

 

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